I knew I needed to get back to work weeks before my sabbatical wasÂ up. I don’t know how it happened, but I do remember when I realizedÂ it. It happened similarly to a cocaine addict’s sobriety relapse. Â One day he’s being bestowed a 10 year sobriety coin, and the next he’sÂ doing coke lines off of a stripper’s back– not knowing exactly how orÂ why it happened, but for a brief moment, realizing that– boy does itÂ feel good.
A few weeks before my leave was up, my sister shipped my laptop toÂ Hong Kong. Not wanting to leave things to the last minute, I wantedÂ to make sure everything was in order, and that I wouldn’t be caught inÂ an airport on the first day of work, with a broken operating system orÂ an invalid SSL certificate (you can’t watch YouTube with the latter
Opening the laptop box was not entirely dissimilar to a child onÂ Christmas day. I smiled, and then ripped the wrapping apart. Â MindÂ you, this is not a new laptop, something which should have clued me toÂ my addiction. I turned it on, and spent the next few hours amazed atÂ how much better Facebook and email looked on a bigger screen. IÂ occupied myself with bigger pixels for a while, but eventually retiredÂ to my third nap of the day, as any self respecting sabbaticalee isÂ prone to doing.
I put the laptop away for a few days, but it wasn’t until I took myÂ next flight to Laos that I realized I had “problems”. I spent the fewÂ hours before my flight departed playing around with unsecured WiFiÂ access points and noticing that most allow ‘ping’ requests to serversÂ on the other side of the world, even though normal TCP/IP traffic is not allowed (read “web traffic”). That’s like realizing that UPSÂ won’t ship your bike for free, but that if you pack bike components inÂ small and different enough boxes, put them at the UPS door, they’llÂ deliver them for free without complaining. Ok, that’s not exactly howÂ it goes, but I bet all my non-nerd friends think they know what we’reÂ talking about now :).
So, right before I boarded the plane I bought “The TCP/IP Guide: AÂ comprehensive, illustrated IP reference” for my Kindle. Which at 1600Â pages, I will add, is a gargantuan piece of verbose crap. SeriouslyÂ folks, have all the technical editors died orÂ left the planet? WhyÂ are we allowing authors to write 1600 pages of anecdotes, uselessÂ diagrams, and verbosity explaining the obvious? Are we paying authorsÂ by the page now? Anyways, in my defense I only bought this nonsenseÂ because Stevens of TCP/IP fame is either dead, not writing, or hasn’tÂ bothered to release his TCP/IP bibles electronically.
Fast forward 6 hours of brushing up on stuff I thought I’d neverÂ see again, and I turned off the Kindle, concluding that yes, I bet IÂ could tunnel TCP/IP packets in an ICMP envelope: I could put all myÂ bike parts in small (different) boxes and UPS would deliver them freeÂ of charge. Â At this point I had the bright idea that I would use theÂ remainder of my leave of absence to design such a tool. The cleverÂ reader will note that had I actually known anything about TCP/IP, orÂ had access to the internet, I would have realized that at least 3Â people have written such tools.
At this point, I’m nodding and congratulating myself on suchÂ cleverness, never stopping to think of the stupidity of my venture. IÂ would be designing a morally suspect, though legal, tool that wouldÂ save me (maybe) $20 a year in free airport and coffee shop internet,Â while using up the remaining time of my sabbatical from a companyÂ which pays me handsomely for working on precisely such interestingÂ projects. Yes, I would be working for free, not seeing Laos, inÂ exchange for designing tools that have already been designed. IÂ should’ve just called my boss and asked to come back: “Hi Matt, IÂ have this great idea for a useless tool you could pay me for… ohÂ yeah, I’m in Laos but I’m not seeing any of the UNESCO World HeritageÂ Sites. Hello? Matt? <click>”.
But no, I didn’t realize I had problems yet. It wasn’t until myÂ second day in Laos, that I realized I hadn’t seen anything, and wasÂ only leaving the hotel at night to search for pizza, Twinkies, andÂ Coke (the cola type, not the stripper type). For the record, youÂ can’t find Twinkies in Luang Prabang, and Digital OceanÂ will rent youÂ an outward facing Linux server to experiment for 16 cents a day. Â Woo hoo to the latter!
Frustratingly, the last few weeks have been spent picking technicalÂ fights on Facebook, hacking hotel security mechanisms, and voluntarilyÂ asking strangers in cafes if I can help them with their PHP code. Â This, and the fact that I traded seeing elephants in Laos for experimenting with outward facing Linux servers in a hotel room with no windows,Â areÂ a few of the many reasons that I think I’mÂ ready to go back to work!
Bring it on!